Kings heading into playoffs, Stars just heading home
The Kings (45-28-6) were considered a toss-up to make the Stanley Cup playoffs but with a win they will record the fifth 100-point season in franchise history and return to the playoffs after a one season absence.
Their first-round opponent is still to be determined and the Kings have a remote chance at home-ice advantage. If Los Angeles wins, both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks would have to lose their final games for the Kings to move into second place in the Pacific Division and secure home-ice.
Los Angeles has played well heading into the playoffs, winning four straight at home and have only lost one of its last nine games in regulation (6-1-2).
Dustin Brown registered his first four-goal game of his career in a 5-4 overtime victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. In his 13th NHL season, Brown established a career-high in points (28 goals, 33 assists) with his four-goal barrage.
With a playoff berth secured and only playoff positioning at stake, Brown said he was not interested in taking a day off to give him additional rest after a grueling season.
“I’m playing Saturday,” Brown said. “I would not know what to do with myself if I didn’t play.”
The Kings enter the game surrendering the least goals against in the NHL and barring an unforeseen defensive collapse, Jonathan Quick will win the Jennings Trophy. Los Angeles has surrendered 198 goals, four ahead of the Nashville Predators. Quick won the award in the 2013-’14 season when the team surrendered 174 goals.
Although his team has improved offensively this season, coach John Stevens takes pride in his team’s defensive accomplishment.
“I think everybody in this organization takes great pride at keeping the puck out of your net. I think a lot of times you want to talk about defense, sometimes it’s a willingness and not an ability, and our guys are willing to do what it takes to keep the puck out of the net,” Stevens said. “Our best offensive players are our best defensive players. We’ve gotten great performances in the net.”
The Stars (41-32-8) were a sleeper pick to win the Stanley Cup by some experts at the start of the season and things looked promising entering the final weeks of the season.
But a disastrous close has them on the outside looking in for the postseason for the third time in their last four seasons. On Mar. 5, they had a 37-23-6 record but won only four of their last 15 games (4-9-2) placing them 10th in the Western Conference and by doing so they are the first team in league history to earn 80 points in their first 66 games and miss the postseason.
Despite improving significantly this season, their lack of scoring depth behind the top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov and a poor penalty kill were the major factors in their poor play down the stretch with opponents registering 15 power play goals in the last 13 games against Dallas.
The Stars had a two-game winning streak snapped on Friday night, losing 5-3 to the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. Benn registered a goal and an assist and Mike McKenna stopped 28 of 33 Anaheim shots. McKenna was victimized by his defense that left him to defend numerous high quality chances.
“We turned the puck over at the top of both zones too many times,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We made too many mistakes in where we call ‘critical ice’ and Anaheim took advantage of it. We had a lot of scoring chances, even ones that did not hit the net but our mistakes came back to haunt us.”
The teams have matched road shutouts in the first two games of the season series. The Kings won 3-0 in Dallas on Jan. 30 and the Stars returned the favor with a 2-0 victory in Los Angeles on Feb. 22.